That is the theme of Flat Classroom 2013 at Yokohama International School in Japan. Rebekah Madrid ended our first day by challenging us to think about “How can we help each other?” Flat Classroom is a unique conference where educators and students come together to connect, collaborate and change the world we live in using Web 2.0 technology and creating action projects.
We started the day hearing from 4 different people who work with organizations that are helping in the Tohoku region that was affected by the earthquake on March 11, 2011. It was a timely reminder of the ongoing need in the Tohoku region as well as in many other parts of the world.(The 2 year anniversary is only 3 days away.) Amya Miller from Vigor Japan shared what she has been doing. In Rikuzentakata where she is living, only 30% of the rubble has been cleared away in 2 years. Angela Ortiz share about OGA for AID. She emphasized the need to ask the right questions. Asking “What do you need?” will often result in the answer we are fine. Asking, “How often are you eating? What are you eating? How are you preparing the food?” will get people to open up. 2nd Harvest is a food bank that is helping people in the Tohoku area as well as other parts of Japan. Sear Palmer who works for 2nd Harvest shared that 16% of the people in Japan live under the poverty level. It has taken 10 years to develop relationships with some of the producers to be willing to give their products, but 2nd Harvest has stuck with it and provides food for many people in Japan. Satoshi Kitahama from Hand on Tokyo was the last to share. He stressed that we need to get students to understand the importance of volunteering, not just to add to a resume but because it makes us feel good. After hearing from these four people we moved on to learning about our task for the weekend.
The students are working on teams with students from other schools. The educators were also divided into groups and then asked to create their own teams. The students and educators were asked to identify a problem and then brainstorm solutions. The students then worked on creating a pitch that they would be sharing with various teams of educators for feedback. They will continue on this tomorrow and a few will get to present on Sunday.(More on those later.) I was impressed as the teams came to pitch their project to us. There were 5 students all from various schools and they had to choose a problem and begin to develop a solution. The collaboration was evident. Some projects seemed more doable and some seem very idealistic.
The team I am on has 6 members all from different schools, Korea, Hong Kong, BomBay, and 3 of us from Japan. Our name is Temporary Spaces, we were challenged by one of our members to develop something based on the idea created by Gap Fillers although we want it to be “By kids for kids.” We want to be able to work with a school or other organization in a disaster struck area to provide a temporary “fun” place for kids on space that has been cleared but is not ready for a permanent building. These would be short-term projects that could include anything from designing an outdoor game board to sending seeds to plant flowers in the area. Even as I thought more about this I wondered if we could partner with Vigor Japan. Amya talked about going and playing with the kids. This wouldn’t just have to be for the Tohoku region but could be for any disaster in any country. Tomorrow we’ll have more time to discuss and possibly plan.
I didn’t know what exactly to expect when I signed up for Flat Classroom. I thought it was more about learning tools and connecting with other classrooms around the world. That is a very small part of Flat Classroom, but the bigger picture is using those tools to help students change their world or as the mission statement at CAJ states “Equipping students to impact the world for Christ.” One regret I have is that I am the only teacher from CAJ at this conference. But I also know that as I go back I will go back connected to many more like minded educators who want to connect their students to projects where they can learn about their world and how they can make a difference no matter how young or old they may be.
Looking forward to another day tomorrow and Sunday of being challenged and developing ideas of how to challenge my students and colleagues.